WILLIAMSBURG ——Wins come neither frequently nor easily for William and Mary this season. Even a quick start against a struggling opponent in its home finale guaranteed nothing.
Yet the Tribe's 69-65 win over Georgia State on Wednesday at Kaplan Arena demonstrated progress and resilience.
CAA) won its second game in a row despite a 13 1/2-minute span without a field goal. Twice in the second half the Tribe saw double-figure leads whittled to two points, but endured.
"I think we played a good game," said freshman guard Brandon Britt, who led the Tribe with 20 points. "But there were times where we were a little sloppy. At the end, we were kind of sloppy with a couple turnovers, and they came down and capitalized with a couple 3s. We definitely didn't finish the game great, but we won, so that's all that matters."
Quinn McDowell's two free throws with three seconds remaining provided the final margin as the Tribe withstood a late Georgia State (11-17, 6-11 CAA) rally.
McDowell scored a quiet 16 points, 14 of which came in the second half, as Georgia State rotated several players on him and tried to muscle him a bit.
"People are really defending Quinn McDowell hard right now," Tribe head coach Tony Shaver said. "He took only one shot in the first half and we were up 11. In the first half of the year, that wouldn't have been the case for us. We've got good balance right now, got a lot of guys playing well. It's a really good sign for us."
The Tribe has endured growing pains, with forward Marcus Kitts the only senior and a heavy reliance on freshmen and sophomores. Eight of the Tribe's 13 conference losses have been by five points or less. Only league alpha dogs George Mason and Old Dominion jackhammered them recently.
An early 3-point barrage gave W&M a working margin, but the Tribe went almost the first five minutes of the second half without a field goal, in addition to the last 8 1/2 minutes of the first half.
The Panthers' Javonte Maynor (21 points) heated up, hitting three 3-pointers in a minute-and-a-half to trim the lead to 35-33.
W&M responded behind freshman Tim Rusthoven (9 points) and McDowell, who scored the Tribe's next 10 points and pushed the lead back to 10.
William and Mary built the lead to as many as 15 points and was up 65-56 with 30 seconds remaining, when matters became dicey. Aided by Tribe turnovers, the Panthers scored nine points in a span of 16 seconds, the last a long 3-pointer by Maynor with 4.3 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 67-65.
Wisely, the Tribe inbounded the ball to McDowell. The CAA's second-leading foul shooter (.864), was fouled and hit both free throws to provide the final margin.
The ability to get to the foul line W&M was 29-for-37 for the game and to rebound out of its zone defense are signs of improvement as the team prepares for next week's CAA tournament.
"We're a different ball club right now," Shaver said. "We've really grown."